The deer once considered a nuisance in Mt. Lebanon, and culled over the past year are serving a new purpose for local food banks.
Over the past year, White Buffalo Deer Management said 104 deer were killed in Mt. Lebanon. White Buffalo and the Pennsylvania Game Commission were called in to hunt the deer after various complaints, including increases in car crashes and concerns over Lyme disease.
White Buffalo and the state game commission gave those hunted deer to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, an organization that finds processors and donates the meat to food banks.
One of those processors is Hoffer’s Ligonier Valley Packing, which gave the venison to New Florence and Rector food banks in Westmoreland County.
“The Hunters Sharing The Harvest provides us with bags, and we run it in the bags. This local food bank we have, they come pick it up on the day they’re distributing, and they hand it out then,” said Mark Zimmerman of Hoffer’s.
According to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Pennsylvania is one of 12 states where hunger costs rose more than $1 billion since 2007. Hunters Sharing The Harvest estimates there's statewide waiting list of 5,000 food pantries requesting more deer meat.
Sandra Hershberger, volunteer coordinator at the West Hills Food Pantry in Moon Township, said it recently received 400 pounds of donated ground venison. She said 75 percent of the pantry’s clients prefer ground venison over beef.
“They pretty much use it for anything,” she said. “They use it in spaghetti sauce, chili. Some say they just make burgers with it. Some say they have to doctor it up to get their family to eat it with spices and different seasoning.”
The West Hills Food Pantry helps about 150 families per week, Hershberger said.